FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, March 9, 2004) -- The surprise was hard to hide on the faces of more than 200 military spouses March 5 as America’s first lady, Laura Bush, stepped to the podium at Fort Hood’s annual Women’s Conference.
With thunderous applause ringing throughout Fort Hood’s Comanche Chapel, Bush made a speech highlighting the military spouse and thanking those women present for their sacrifices in these times of war.
“Today, we celebrate the spirit of … the elite special forces who don’t wear uniforms or fly Black Hawks or carry weapons,” Bush said. “[Today we celebrate] the sisters who support their loved ones and each other so that America remains a land of freedom.”
Bush, whose surprise visit was kept a secret until nearly the hour of her arrival, said she came to Fort Hood to thank the women who help keep America free.
“I know about having your life turned upside down because the man you love wants to serve the country and I know that many of you make sacrifices to help your spouse fulfill his dreams,” Bush said.
Bush’s visit came as a complete shock to most attendees of the Women’s Conference.
“I wasn’t expecting her,” said Amanda Roybol, who rushed to the gas station next to the Comanche Chapel to buy a disposable camera when she heard Bush would be speaking at the conference. “When she walked in, I just started shaking – I couldn’t believe that she had come.”
“She didn’t even have to speak,” one spouse of a deployed 4th Infantry Division Soldier said. “Just having her here and knowing she supported us and understood the sacrifices we are making was enough.”
Bush also commended those Soldiers currently deployed and deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Our troops are involved in the historic task of building democracies and in the true American spirit, they are building hope one heart at a time.”
A testament to the purpose of the eight-year-old women’s conference, Bush’s remarks served to uplift, enlighten, motivate and strengthen the military spouses in attendance at the two-day event.
With her husband’s 13 – 15 month deployment stretching out ahead of her, Gloria Elder, wife of Fort Hood’s 13th COSCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Elder, said that with support like this, the long days of waiting might be a little less difficult.
“All we ever say is that we’ll take [the deployment] one day at a time,” said Elder. “With support like this, though, it makes those days much easier – that’s for sure.”
Beth Philyaw, new to Fort Hood and a first-time conference attendee, said she was surprised to see Bush and proud to have been able to be part of the unique experience of this year’s Women’s Conference.
“Sometimes, the wives feel left behind with all the Soldiers are doing and it seems like no one notices the sacrifices we are making,” said Philyaw. “[Bush’s visit] here today tells us we are important and appreciated.”
Bush concluded her speech by saying, “All of those who serve in our military deserve our utmost respect and so do those who serve well behind the front lines.”
She remained at the chapel after her speech to express her gratitude personally by shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with Fort Hood’s military spouses and female Soldiers.
You'll find great comments and additional discussion at Blackfive's on this story. Among other things he makes a wry observation on the personality differences between Mrs. Bush and Ms. Heinz-Kerry, who hands "Asses of Evil" buttons to her hubby's supporters.
But speaking of contrast, you can also contrast the response from those ladies with this:
Bush alienating some military voters who helped him win in 2000
A bipartisan "Battleground" poll of likely voters conducted in September found that Bush's approval rating among relatives of military personnel was only 36 percent. Family members upset by Bush's policy on Iraq are venting through Web sites and public protests.
Military Families Speak Out, an antiwar group of relatives of deployed troops, plans to observe the Iraq war's first anniversary next week with processions outside Dover Air Base in Delaware, where the bodies of dead soldiers are returned, and at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, where wounded soldiers are treated.
"I voted for Bush in 2000, and I'm not going to vote for him again," said Jean Prewitt, a group member from Birmingham, Ala. Her 24-year-old son, Kelley, was in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division when he was killed on April 6 just south of Baghdad. "I just feel deceived. He just kept screaming, screaming, weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction, we've got to get in there. We got in there and now there aren't any."
Democrats sense an opportunity to chip away at what's been a mostly Republican base since the United States turned to an all-volunteer military in 1973. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate from Massachusetts and a decorated Vietnam veteran, touts his military record on the campaign trail.
Do "read the whole thing" - there will be many such bogus claims floated by the Kerry camp this year. I once wrote a series here called "Season of Lies". It had a different theme, but a new season of lies is upon us. In this one military people are depicted as devoted Kerry fans. It might be nice if Kerry's people thought he had a shot at the military vote, because if so the Democrats might not try to block the write-in ballots this year.
But they know they don't have anything near a majority of us - active duty, Guard, Reserves, retired, vets, or family members - know where the hope for America's future is. But Kerry doesn't need military support, he just needs America to believe it's soldiers and their families support him.
And a small few do.
And what would you say to them - those who'd vote Kerry on the mistaken idea that his presidency would benefit military people? How would you explain the reality? It's not a rhetorical question; Sarah's husband just deployed, and she and her fellow spouses are here in Germany dealing with separation from loved one's who are in harm's way:
There were a couple of stragglers at the party last night, and out of the complete blue one of them said, "Do you think Kerry will be elected President?" Now, I know that wives don't have rank, but since this woman's husband way outranks mine, I thought it in good taste to be vague, so I just said, "Well, I don't know," because it's true after all: I don't know what's going to happen. But another wife replied, "God, I hope so." The gist of the conversation was that Kerry would pull the troops out faster than you can shake a stick, and that means everyone's husbands come home, so Kerry's our man.
I wish I had said something. Anything. I was just sorta dumbfounded.
Personally I think she was up against an activist, someone with some time on the "Kicking Ass" blog (Or Kerry's "Asses of Evil" site). And really, she'll be up against this stuff all year. I'm sure she'd appreciate some ideas to help her deal with the issue. (Bear in mind that although it might be her fondest dream she can't just tell these folks where to go. If nothing else perhaps you can spare some encouraging words.)
And as the one-year anniversary of the founding of The Mudville Gazette approaches, the entry below this one is one of my answers to those who'd claim the militay is in Kerry's camp. Perhaps another attempt to explain to those who don't understand, a re-post of a humble tribute to military families.